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Fiyinfunjah Dosumu: The importance of physical activity on occupational well-being

A photo of fourth-year Ph.D. candidate, Fiyinfunjah Dosumu: Giving a talk on the importance of physical activity on occupational well-being.
Fiyinfunjah Dosumu, a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Psychology, presenting her research at a conference. Photo courtesy of Fiyinfunjah Dosumu.

The following story was written in December 2023 by Atharva Agashe in ENGL 4824: Science Writing as part of a collaboration between the English department and the Center for Communicating Science.    

Have you ever had a stressful day at work? Have you ever felt that you were not productive during work hours? You may not realize it, but these bad days at work can be associated with factors outside your work life. Researcher Fiyinfunjah Dosumu, a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in Virginia Tech’s Department of Psychology, examines how factors such as physical activity and commuting experiences may influence employees' work.

    After completing her master's degree in industrial-organizational (IO) psychology and working with employers to develop employee assistance programs related to mental health, Dosumu became motivated to pursue a Ph.D. degree. She was inspired to continue working in industrial-organizational psychology to help improve employees' work performance by examining how external factors affect attentional resources, among others. Dosumu hopes that her research in industrial-organizational psychology will boost employees' perception of work and their overall performance.

    Dosumu's research involves using quantitative data such as surveys, observing trends in the data, and comparing them to her initial hypotheses. She uses an innovative method called actigraphy to focus on physical activity and how it affects occupational well-being. Participants wear the actigraphy device on their non-dominant wrists, and the device collects data over a time point, allowing objective tracking of physical activity and sleep with limited training and effort required by the participants. 

    One of the challenges that Dosumu faces is keeping participants continuously engaged in the research process for long periods, as a study period can last several weeks. 

    "Using compensation and communicating as frequently as possible without burdening participants with too much information about the research" helps in overcoming the challenges involved in keeping participants engaged and not dropping out from the research, Dosumu says.

    Physical activity isn't the only factor that affects occupational well-being. Dosumu worked with her advisor, Dr. Charles Calderwood, whose research focused on employees' commuting experiences and connected the research on physical activity to employee commuting experiences. By working in a collaborative research environment, Dosumu can discover how external factors such as commuting and exercise are interlinked, further strengthening her passion for Industrial-Organizational psychology research.

    How does she discern all the various external factors that might play a part in occupational health?

    "Using theoretical frameworks in psychology can allow us to find other variables that can affect the relationships that we are studying,” Dosumu says, “and by understanding these relationships, we can develop effective controls to prevent their impact potentially."

    Dosumu aims to help employers and employees unravel the reasons for reduced work efficiency and provide employers with knowledge to improve employees' experiences and abilities at their workplace. She says engaging in physical activity may increase attention and positive emotions, which could help increase performance at work.

    The results from Dosumu's research will impact how employers evaluate occupational health and aid them in reducing the number of bad days employees experience at their workplace, thus improving the occupational health of millions worldwide.